Like its contemporaries, the Ford Escort Cosworth and Lancia Delta Integrale, the Sunny GTi-R was a road going version of a serious rally machine. Despite this it is important to remember it was essentially based on a humble family car. Given the Japanese love of high technology, It was also a very reasonable commercial bet on the internal domestic market. It status conscious Europe, however, a small Japanese hatchback especially one wearing the Nissan badge, could never be considered any real rival to rallying icons. This was, of course a completely unfair assessment, although the Nissan’s peculiar styling wasn’t any help in delivering street credibility. Minimal changes to the homely three door shell, the peaked cap aero foil on the trailing edge of the roof and the large vented hump on the bonnet, actually the air intake for the turbocharger’s intercooler, which lay flat on top of the engine, gave the GTi-R an uncomfortable profile. The interior, which was typically Japanese, in that it was dull and plastic, was enlivened only by a sporty steering wheel and bucket seats.
Yet underneath was a fine car. The excellence of the engine, fine steering, the swift gear change and progressive power delivery meant that contemporary road tests judged in swifter in real world driving than either the Cosworth. It was the chassis somewhat unsophisticated, which prevented the GTi-R from developing real cult car status.